Cultural Corner: Assimilation and Receptivity Patterns

Assimilation Patterns

Varying degrees of cultural assimilation need to be taken into account in the selection of languages as well as leadership to be employed in Hispanic church planting. Cultural assimilation refers to the process by which a person who comes from another country begins to incorporate some of the language, customs, and values of the predominant (Anglo) society in this country. Three factors contribute to the rapid assimilation of the children of immigrants: (1) schooling, which stresses the use of English; (2) the media (radio, television, movies); and (3) peer groups, which exert a strong social influence. It does not take long before linguistic and cultural variations begin to develop between the immigrant parents (first-generation), their children (second-generation), and their children’s children (third-generation). The linguistic variations discussed above are accompanied by cultural variations that need to be taken into account in Hispanic church planting. One of the most important areas that needs to be considered is that of selecting pastoral leadership. Generally a first generation (immigrant) pastor will have a difficult time relating to a congregation in which the majority group is second or third generation Hispanic-American. There are issues related to language, values, and leadership styles that lead to conflict if not addressed properly. Conversely, a third or fourth generation Hispanic-American pastor (unless he has concentrated in learning the Hispanic language and culture) may have a difficult time ministering to a congregation made up predominantly of first generation (immigrant) Hispanics. Wise decisions, therefore, need to be made in the selection of pastoral leadership. 
Receptivity Patterns
There is much to be gained in utilizing the excellent demographic analysis tools for determining where Hispanic churches need to be started. One of the most important issues is that of finding people receptive to the idea of starting home Bible studies that will lead to the establishing of a new church in their community. In Matthew Chapter 10, Jesus instructed His disciples to go into a city and focus on finding a “person of peace.” Once they had found that person they were to remain in his or her home and utilize it as a base for the evangelization of the city. Church planters are utilizing that strategy in communities where there is not a strong evangelical presence. Finding a person of peace in the Hispanic communityis of utmost importance. All of the surveys that are available can provide the church planter with vital information about the community. Often, however, it is not a matter of concentrating in the area where there are greater statistical possibility but in the place where there is the greatest receptivity. Since Hispanics place a strong emphasis on personal relationship, finding a person of peace in a community can open the door for large and promising networks that can be very helpful in reaching people with the gospel and starting new congregations. 
Copied with permission from Hispanic Ministry in the Carolinas.